March 23rd, 2006
People on both side are praising today’s ruling by a state appeals court that would provide New York City schools with billions more in funding. In the latest round in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court said the state must “appropriate the constitutionally required funding for the New York City schools” by the next fiscal year, which begins April 1.
The court was acting on an appeal by Governor George Pataki, who has fought the long-running legal effort to boost funding for city schools. And the court apparently gave the governor one victory. While the trial court had said that the city would eventually need an additional $5.7 billion a year in operating funds and more than $9 billion in additional funding for capital projects, the Appellate Division gave the governor some wiggle room, saying, according to the Associated Press, that state officials must “provide $4.7 billion to $5.63 billion more for annual operating expenses for city schools,” as well as billions more for building projects. This, the court said, results from “our adherence to well-established constitutional doctrine that it is for the governor and the legislature, not the courts, to adopt a dollar-specific budget.”
In a statement Pataki hailed the court action: “Today’s court decision reaffirms the longstanding constitutional principle of separation of powers, and has again made clear that budgetary decisions must be made by the governor and legislature, not the courts.”
According to CFE, he has little reason to be happy. “The court brushed aside the governor’s latest appeal, ruling that it is ‘undisputed’ that the state has failed to appropriate the amount of funding needed to meet the CFE mandate,” it said.
Calling the ruling ” a ringing victory for children in underfunded New York City public schools and children in high-need school districts,” state United Teachers president Richard Iannuzzi said, “This decision delivers a clear message: Enough is enough.” City teachers union president Randi Weingarten agreed: ” This is a clear directive to the legislature and the governor to do the right thing and provide – in this year’s budget – the educational opportunities this money would give New York City’s public school children.”
Robert Jackson, who brought the case and now chairs the City Council education committee, harked back to the beginning. “When we began this battle in 1993, we stood confident that the State Constitution would support an equal education for all the children of New York,” he said in a statement. “Today, we stand on not one, but four court decisions, declaring that the governor must provide our students with the opportunity to succeed.”
The court’s ruling that at least some of the additional funding must appear in the budget effective April 1 would seem to put pressure on the legislature and governor. But Senate Majority leader Joseph Bruno, a vocal opponent of the CFE case, claimed to be undaunted. He told reporters he feels vindicated by today’s ruling and said it would not change the proposals for state aid to education now on the table.
The real indication of who won and who lost could come in the negotiations in Albany in the days to come – and in whether who, if anyone, decides to continue the legal battle and take the case to the state’s highest court.By Gail Robinson on March 23, 2006, 6:44 pm
In category: Albany, Education, Gotham City, Public Finance | 1 Comment »